The Mercy of God in the Face of His Christ

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Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:9-14
Psalm 85:1-2ab, 2c-4, 5-6
Luke 5:27-32

The Voice of Mercy

While we are yet on the threshold of Lent, Mercy passes by, looks into our hearts, sees every bit of your story and of mine, and, astonishingly, says, “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). He wants us for himself. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32).

Saint Augustine

We do well to attend to the traditional Lenten Stational Churches of Rome. We are, after all, Roman Catholics; our liturgy and our piety are shaped by the practices of the Church that is at Rome. The best peoples’ missals used to offer a map of the Eternal City marking the location of the Stational Churches so that, at least in spirit, Catholics the world over could follow the Christians of Rome in their Lenten progress. Every day in Lent offers us the opportunity to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the designated Stational Church. I speak of this because today’s church, that of Saint Augustine, is wonderfully suited to today’s gospel. The Confessions of Saint Augustine are confessions of the Mercy of God. “Though I am but dust and ashes,” says Augustine, “allow me to speak in your merciful presence, for it is to your Mercy that I address myself” (Confessions, Book I, 7).

Mercy on the Face of Christ

Our friends from the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation would tell us that the core of their commitment is in the event of an encounter with Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Today’s gospel relates exactly such an experience: the event of Levi’s encounter with Jesus. The richness of God’s Mercy is revealed in Jesus. We see the Mercy of God on His face. We hear the Mercy of God in His voice. We feel it in the touch of His hands. We experience it flowing from His heart. Christ, being the Mercy of God, is the Way to those who, confused and disoriented, have lost their way in life. Being the Mercy of God, He is the Truth to those who go stumbling in the darkness and knocking at all the wrong doors, hoping to find truth at home. Being the Mercy of God, He is the Life to those deceived by a culture of death.


The Compass of Divine Mercy

Repentance is born of the event that is the encounter with the Mercy of God in Christ. The tradition of the Church, a tradition distilled from the experience of the saints, offers us a compass that unfailingly points to the Mercy of God. Repentance is a habitual reference to this compass of Mercy, obliging me again and again to adjust the direction of my life.

Late Have I Loved Thee

Repentance has little to do with looking at oneself and everything to do with gazing upon the beauty of God. ”Look to Him and be radiant,” says the psalmist (33:6). Repentance dissolves all thought of oneself in the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The repentant soul wastes no time dwelling on her sins. Sin is ugly and, admit it, frightfully boring. The repentant soul is magnetized by the beauty that shines in the Face of Christ. Repentance has to do with tears, it is true, but these are the tears of astonishment shed by a Saint Augustine: “Late have I loved thee, beauty so old and so new, late have I loved thee!” (Confessions X, 38), the tears of a Saint Scholastica overwhelmed by the Love that, “being perfect, drives out all fear” (RB 7:38).

Eucharistic Mercy

The repeated re-orientation of ourselves by the liturgy compels us to do away with “the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness” (Is 58:9). It is at the Table of the divine hospitality, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that we learn the meaning of the prophet’s words, “pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted” (Is 58:10). Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus “pouring himself out for the hungry” and, with the mysteries of His Body and Blood, “satisfying the desire of the afflicted.”

The Company of Mercy

The great feast given by Levi in his house, amidst a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with Jesus, is but a pale image of the greater feast made ready for a company of sinners too many to be numbered: the banquet of Mercy at the table of the kingdom. The hospitality of God is lavish and it is ours, here and now. Come to the table. Pay no heed to those who murmur against you. It pleases Mercy to eat and drink with sinners. Even more, it has pleased Mercy to become for sinners both food and drink. “Taste and see” (Ps 33:8).

2 Comments

Dear Father,

When we were in Rome just over a year ago, we tried to visit as many of the stational churches as we could and pray the rosary in each of them. So last Lent and this year's Lent, it has been very meaningful to follow along spiritually on the Stational procession.

I'm hoping to be in Rome for the canonization of Blessed Charles of Argus in June. God bless.

Thanks for mentioning Communion & Liberation, Father Mark, O.Cist.. On March 24th Pope Benedict XVI will be having a public meeting with members of CL from throughout the world. He, like John Paul II, was close to Msgr Luigi Giussani and the work of CL. Some of the Pope's closest collaborators are members of CL's Memores Domini.

You are quite correct in pointing out that members of CL strive for the personal encounter with Christ. They do so in the context of the Church, the objectivity of the Magisterium, closeness to BVM and real experience.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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